At the start of 2020, women’s labor force participation in the US stood at 58%. With COVID-19, women have been disproportionately impacted. 

According to Bloomberg, in a regular recession, the pay gap between men and women shrinks by two percentage points as men tend to get hit harder by job losses. This time, with the economic downturn caused by the coronavirus pandemic the gender pay gap will likely worsen.

As organizations we have to recognize that if we want to attract top talent, we have to adapt to meet the needs of the changing dynamics of the workforce.  Those companies who are agile and adapt to the new working realities of 2021 (including post pandemic), will have a strong base they can build upon.

Here are the reasons for a wage gap in 2020/2021:

1. Women are more vulnerable to the impacts of COVID-19 economically: many women work in service sectors such as restaurants, tourism and office space maintenance, which were severely affected by the crisis. Leaving the workforce, either temporarily or permanently to care for children can have long-term impacts on their job growth and skillset. As a result, women will receive lower pay which has a circular impact on their economic well-being. In 2020, in the US, the poverty threshold for a single person under 65 was an annual income of US$12,760; the threshold for a family group of four, including two children, was US$26,200.

2. Child care solutions are scarce: women are more likely to take time off work to care for sick children and to provide caregiving. The perception around parental leave is still heavily women only focused. The disruptions to daycare centers, schools, and after-school programs have been hard on all members of the family, but working mothers are more frequently reducing their hours or leaving their jobs entirely to take care of their children.

3. Leadership roles for women are less likely to receive a raise: the Society for Human Resource Management shared a study conducted with more than 1,003 managers. On average, male managers received an increase of $9,070 upon assuming their new leadership role, while female managers received an increase of $7,899—a difference of nearly $1,200.


How can employers contribute to gender equity long-term?

1. Flexible working arrangements:

The Harvard Business Review discovered one study where 71% agreed that a new appreciation for remote work arrangements will be a significant factor in their future plans for office space and technology staffing to support the new demand. Another study found that 27% of dads would like more flexible work arrangements, and most working fathers agree that teleworking will provide women and mothers more professional opportunities.

2. Be honest about your family commitments

This is dependent on your comfort level but be open about your obligations with family. The management team can help by normalizing leaving work to meet your family obligations so that no one is perceived in a negative way when they do the same. This helps with building relationships and emotional connection.

This time of change can be a catalyst for disrupting gender working traditions, as an employer, you have the ability to cross-functionally implement pillars to help mitigate the gender wage gap from expanding.